Our Sustainable Practices
“When the soils and the vines are healthy, the wine tastes better.” – Kirk Grace, Director of Vineyard Operations
At Stagʹs Leap Wine Cellars, we believe that the choices made in the vineyard and the winery have a profound influence not only on the quality of our wine, but also on the health of the environment and the welfare of generations to come. Our goal is to ensure that the vineyard environment is in harmony with the natural environment. By embracing rather than competing with Mother Nature, we seek to promote a healthy ecosystem – one that includes vibrant vineyards destined to produce high quality grapes for years to come. Our sustainable farming and conservation practices include:
Cover Crops And Soil Amendments
Cover crops, which are cultivated between vine rows, and soil amendments are at the heart of our sustainable farming operations. Both practices help protect against erosion, contribute nutrients and organic matter, improve soil structure and water infiltration, and aid in the infinite complexities of a healthy environmental system. Vineyard Manager Kirk Grace takes a very site-specific approach, matching cover crop types and soil amendment mixtures to the needs and characteristics of each vineyard block.
Drip irrigation, which became prevalent in the 1970’s, has had a dramatic effect on grape and wine quality, but it also minimizes water loss by delivering it to the plant’s roots versus overhead systems which water the entire vineyard. Drip irrigation allows us to finely tune our water application down to the sub-blocks. By walking the vineyard regularly and using devices that measure soil water content and vine stress, we’re able to apply water judiciously and only to the vine rows that truly need it.
We utilize a number of integrated pest management (IPM) techniques to minimize damage from pests which are harmful to grapevines. Using cover crops specifically designed to attract certain insects we promote an environment in which “beneficial bugs” – bugs that feed on harmful bugs as well as funguses – can thrive. We place nesting boxes throughout our vineyards to provide homes for owls that feed on unwanted rodents and pests. We also provide areas of natural refuge that act as barriers between our vineyards and the areas where harmful bugs can breed. In addition, we release beneficial mites that prey on pest mites, rather than spraying chemicals that can result in secondary pest outbreaks.
Farming in a sustainable manner requires commitment and individual attention to each grapevine. Our labor-intensive system of canopy management means that during the course of a growing season we make several “passes” through the vineyard. By suckering new shoots, training them onto trellises, and removing lateral shoots and leaves we precisely control the amount of air and light that circulates and surrounds each grapevine. This cultivation naturally minimizes undesirable molds and fungus.
Watershed And Habitat Restoration
The long-term health of our vineyards is tied to the health and vitality of the surrounding habitat and watershed. In 2004, we undertook a major habitat restoration of Chase Creek, a long and winding tributary of the Napa River that runs through S.L.V. and FAY Vineyards. By laying down rock, preserving old growth trees, removing non-native plants and replanting with native species, we were able to ease erosion, restore water flow and promote a thriving environment for raptors, hawks, owls, wood ducks and other wildlife. We know healthy ecosystems radiate outwards, so there is a direct correlation between the vibrancy of the watershed and the vitality of our vineyards.
Water is a precious natural resource, particularly in our dry, Mediterranean climate. Through an agreement with the nearby town of Yountville, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is able to use reclaimed and recycled water for our vineyard needs. The reclaimed and recycled water is 84% of the total amount of water used by the winery annually. This practice is a great example of two entities working together for conservation. Under the agreement, Yountville cannot release to the Napa River during periods of low flow and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars doesn’t put any demands on ground water reserves that are very limited in the Stags Leap District. The water is recognized as meeting tertiary treatment standards – the most stringent standard for recycled water. We also carefully monitor our water use in the winery and reuse some of our winery waste water for our landscaping needs.
Napa Green Winery Certification
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars first received “Napa Green Winery” and “Napa Green Land” certification in 2010. All three estate vineyards (FAY, S.L.V. and Danika Ranch) were recertified for Napa Green in 2020.
Napa Green, a voluntary program, is the wine industry’s most comprehensive “best practices” for wine production and is one of only four sustainable winegrowing programs nationwide offering the opportunity for comprehensive soil-to-bottle certification in the winery. 40% of all the certified sustainable wineries in California are in Napa County. Napa Green Certified Wineries implement more than 100 sustainability standards to:
- Save energy and increase energy efficiency
- Conserve water and increase water use efficiency
- Prevent waste through recycling, composting and environmentally preferable purchasing
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the winery's carbon footprint
- Care for employees, build engagement around sustainability and be good neighbors
Fish Friendly Farming Certification
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is also proud to hold Fish Friendly Farming (FFF) certification for FAY, S.L.V. and Danika Ranch estate vineyards. The FFF Certification Program is one of the most successful sustainability and environmental improvement programs in the state of California. It is a certification program for agriculture properties to maintain and restore fish and wildlife habitat and improve water quality. Salmon and Trout habitat protection includes soil and water conservation and restoration of riparian corridors along rivers and creeks. By focusing on improving conditions for salmon and trout, the Fish Friendly Farming program takes a comprehensive approach to environmentally-friendly land management. The program also recognizes the efforts of farmers to create or maintain habitat for wildlife such as songbirds, raptors, frogs, coyotes, and others.